Instead of sitting in front of the garage in a plastic chair watching the days dwindle by, many seniors use their retirement years to pursue avocations they never had time for when working. That may include taking art classes, developing an art portfolio or a collection for an art show or finding an outlet for creative expression. Whether a senior decides to paint, draw, create sculptures, provide artistic inspiration to others or practice the performing arts, a grant may be available to do just that.

Elders Learning Through the Arts

The Elders Learning through the Arts program sponsored by the D.C. Commission on the Arts and Humanities offers grants to individuals or organizations that provide innovative art programs to District of Columbia seniors age 60 and above. Activities include programs in the visual arts, theater, performance or interdisciplinary art, music, media, literature, crafts or dance. The commission, a nonprofit organization, offers grant funds from $500 to $5,000 to individuals or organizations. Grant application deadline occurs in August of each year for the fiscal year beginning in October and ending in September. Applicants must be residents of the District for a minimum of one year prior to the grant application and must be an artist or professional.

Artist Outreach Project

The Artist Outreach Project provides grants to literary, visual and performing resident artists in the San Diego and Orange County, California, regions, age 55 and older, who give back to their community by sharing their talents with those less fortunate. Artists who provide programs to nonprofit and underserved groups or organizations may qualify for up to $12,000 a year, paid out in $1,000 monthly installments. The Artist Outreach Project, sponsored by the Kenneth A. Picerne Foundation, generally provides up to 20 such stipends a year and recently provided 23 stipends. The application period runs from January 3 through March 31 each year. Applicants may apply online.

MacArthur Foundation Fellowships

The MacArthur Foundation awards fellowships to creative individuals nominated by members of its foundation. Recipients receive up to $500,000, paid out in a five-year installment plan. The Fellows Program award goes to “talented individuals who have shown extraordinary originality and dedication in their creative pursuits and a marked capacity for self-direction.” Fellows are chosen based upon three selection criteria: a significant record of personal accomplishment, exceptional creativity and the potential for additional creative work. After nomination, an independent selection committee reviews potential fellows. Committee members are composed of leaders in the arts, sciences, humanities professions, and for-profit and nonprofit communities.

A Room of Her Own Foundation

This foundation provides a variety of grants to women writers and artists of all ages throughout the year. The Gift of Freedom $50,000 biennial grant goes to women who work to complete a literary or artistic project. Applicants must complete an application form that includes personal essays on the applicant’s artistic endeavors, samples of artistic work as well as answers to questions about the applicant’s educational history, community service and past employment. Individuals must be citizens or legal residents of the United States and must reside in the States during the two-year grant period. As of March 2011, the 2011 Gift of Freedom program is on hiatus until all program funds have been raised, but the organization recommends downloading application information for when the program is once again operational.